Sleep On It

Some have a rule in relationships that you never go to bed angry with your loved one. I agree that this is better and makes for a better sleep. But I also feel that, unless you had a terrible night’s sleep or a nightmare, its difficult to wake up angry. I’m usually calm with my mind open to more things. Sleeping on a difficult decision or strained relationship is sometimes the best remedy. It allows our sub-conscious mind to process and make orderly what seems complicated.

I listened to a podcast that went over a lot of the sleep studies done on military operators and veterans. In training, sleep deprivation is often a tool used to see how a person will handle stressful situations. In fact, it may be the ultimate tool beyond physical rigors, yelling at someone, or other forms of stress. Normal sleep roughly consists of about 5 x 90 minute cycles. Each cycle has a peak of near awakeness which is preceeded by a deep REM sleep (rapid eye movement). And, with each subsequent 90 minute cycle, the REM aspect is deeper. You can possibly gain the most in hormonal growth and healing in those last 2 cycles than the rest of the entire sleep. So for people who work nights, kids who stay up late, and those who sleep short periods possibly with napping, those last REM cycles are never reached.

With the military operators, they also found that lack of sleep is much like having a traumatic brain injury. It causes portions of your brain to become clouded without recovery. They also say that it can have the effect of so many alcohol cocktails. We can become sleep drunk. The value of good sleep can never be underrated.

More importantly, with statistics reaching 22 veterans committing suicide every day, the sleep factor plays a huge role in this. When we sleep, our minds place items from our thoughts into compartments. It organizes those items into something that we can handle in a more logical manner. But when we lack sleep, little things that bother us start to become big things. And this mountain of jumbled thoughts results in an inability to cope with life.

It is well known that activities like yoga, tai-chi, and meditation can play a huge role in tapping into brain waves that mimic sleep. Gamma brain waves are well known to "dissolve frustrating mental blocks". These are the brain waves of meditation. In yoga, we call the chaos of our minds, "vritti". Some say its the purpose of yoga to remove the chaos from our minds. Not only do our minds have chaos, but our bodies find similar attributes. Our fight or flight response creates tension in our hip flexors that are needed for the protective fetal position. We also clench our jaws, furrow our brows, and bind our fists. When we use breath with movement (known as vinyasa), we begin to release this tension. We isometrically hold our muscles for extended periods. This allows for those neuromuscular junctions to give way to release. Instead of being harden masses of bitter chaos, we melt into surrender. Its why yoga teachers say savasana, or corpse pose, is the most important pose in yoga. It is where we begin to approach delta wave sleep. Yes, we try to stay awake, but our bodies crave that slow wave sleep. Its why coming out of savasana can be very much like waking in the morning from a quality sleep.

When you find troubles in life, sleep on it. And when I mean sleep, I mean temperature regulated, room darkening, quiet, uninterrupted sleep. Power naps may play a role in life, but they cannot substitute for deep sleep. If you have a Sheldon Cooper-like equation on string theory that you want to solve, sleep on it. Your mind will cope better in the morning.

#sleep #yoga #meditation #brain #brainwaves #tbi #traumaticbraininjury

Oh Jillian

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover, not a hater. I don’t hate anyone. But I’ve never been a fan of Jillian Michaels. And that’s OK. We don’t have to like or be liked by everyone. So I’ll try to be as positive as I can.

People from the outside see CrossFit and only think of the CrossFit Games or of some random YouTube video that an individual posted about CrossFit. The latter may include a beginner with not-so-perfect form while doing high reps of a movement. But if you really dive deeper, there’s so much more to it for the open-minded.

Jillian mentioned that there are only 20 or 30 movements and that combinations of those movements are limited. This is so far from the truth. First, let me mention Olympic weightlifting. If you study what Olympic weightlifters do in training, it would amaze you. This sport only has two movements: the snatch and the clean & jerk. And at first glance, its just taking a barbell from the floor to overhead. Really, that’s all it is. There’s not even that many rules. But if you hear Strength coaches talk about Olympic weightlifting, many college and pro football and athletic programs will stay away from these movements. In its simplest form, its the most basic thing you can do. But you cannot discount how explosive and powerful these exercises are. However, they are also very technical. Strength coaches don’t have the time (or sometimes the ability) to grasp the nuances of techniques and then teach those to a professional athlete. There isn’t enough time to do that. They need to get their players strong without getting them hurt in the process. Only two exercises? There’s more than meets the eye.

In the Bulgarian system, lifters only do the snatch, clean & jerk, and the squat. And they do that 3-6 hours a day, 6 days a week, usually in two sessions a day. That’s a lot of commitment to the lifts. However, other approaches break them down into all the phases of the lift. The set-up, the first pull, the 2nd pull, the 3rd pull, and the finish. But you can change everything in endless combinations and permutations of the lifts. You can do static holds, multiple reps, hangs, powers, pauses, deficits, and a multitude of accessory movements. Its endless. And that’s just to get better at two lifts!!

Now overlay this with CrossFit. Its "CROSS"-"FIT"!! That means cross-training. Nothing needs to be excluded. You could do endless variations with just Olympic weightlifting in CrossFit. But then add gymnastics, powerlifting, strongman, kettlebells, maces, ropes, bodybuilding, and any sport you can think of. It can be sprints, hurdles, box jumps, rowing, running, and ski erging. And not only that, you can change this to max weight, max reps, and singles or hundreds of reps. The possibilities are endless.

So for Jillian and the uninformed among us, its better to keep an open mind about everything. Why close off a system that’s been tried and true for so long? CrossFit isn’t unique. When I did high school wrestling, the type of training we did is identical to CrossFit. Then, when in the Army, all the obstacle courses, sprints, and crazy exercises we did to failure…yeah, you guessed it…CrossFit! Its been done forever! Its just that CrossFit made a sport out of all these other things.

Stay positive in life. I give Jillian credit for what she’s accomplished in life. She has a voice and a story to tell. I just wish her insecurity and income being drained from something she is against can change. She could embrace CrossFit as another method to get fit. Instead, she chooses to find the negative. Find the positive in everything friends. In every culture, music, fashion style, language, and exercise. Find what’s good in the world and enjoy its goodness. Never close your mind to possibilities to grow.

Science of Yoga Work

I heard a question after teaching Rocket Yoga on Saturday.

"Was the heat turned up during class?"

It really wasn’t. I looked at the thermometer just to see what the temperature was and it was a moderate 74.1 degrees F. I started with a jacket walking around, then a t-shirt over a tank top when I got started. Eventually the t-shirt came off, so I know my body was heating even though I was only teaching the class.

I only wish I would have checked the temperature after class because it was rather balmy. All the windows had a thick layer of condensation and I could see yogis wiping sweat.

OK, one work about sweat. Sweat isn’t necessarily an indication of how hard you work. If you were to establish a STP (standard temperature and pressure) for sweat, then maybe you could start talking about work. But its rather different for each body. Some of our metabolisms work higher than others. If we are sick, pregnant, menopausal, or ate a red hot chili pepper, our metabolisms will start from different places. Vitamins, electrolytes, hydration status, and other factors also play a role. And, for people like me, I carry a nice layer of adipose tissue. Fat on our bodies makes it like we are doing yoga with a full wet suit on. But back to sweat.

Sweat is dependent externally upon temperature and water vapor pressure. Increase either of these components and you have a potential for sweat. However, evaporation plays a role as well, which is why vapor pressure is important. If you walk across a desert in Arizona, the temperature may be high but the water vapor pressure is low. Sure you might be sweating profusely, but you may not see it on your skin because it evaporates quickly. Now, imagine sitting on a porch in Houston, Texas tying your shoes during a very hot rain shower. You may work up a drenching sweat doing that small task. Almost no "work" is being done by your body, but the sweat could be profuse.

So this is the point, sweat is not always an indication of how hard you work. Identical wins separated by Tuscon, AZ and New Orleans, LA could be doing the exact same work, but one with sweat and the other without. So sweat isn’t always an indicator of work.

Where it can be an indicator of work is when you have a resting individual in a coat and another similar individual in yoga class with sweat streaming down. That can be work.

To be honest, Rocket Yoga is an intense class. Bodies are doing loads of hard work and it shows often in sweat and window condensation. Both heat and humidity rise from the rapid use of Prana (energy). For people who live in Rajasic energy (bold, active, action oriented, forceful, aggressive), expending this energy is needed to bring balance. It where savasana shifts us toward a more tamasic energy, that is, softness, passivity, gentleness, kindness. Its where the chaos of our unsettled minds and bodies are released. It is how hard work pays off.